Hedge fund investing and commodities trading usually don't get brought into a kickboxing conversation, unless, of course, you are speaking about Pierre Andurand.
An award-winning investor and life-long martial arts and kickboxing fan, Andurand is the chairman of GLORY Sports International, the parent company of GLORY Kickboxing, which will present GLORY 14 via Spike TV tape delay later this evening at Arena Zagreb in Zagreb, Croatia.
Inside the Doubletree Hilton, which as served as base for operations all week, the GLORY 14 weigh-ins had just ended and the French businessman blended right into the crowd. If you were looking for a man with a suit like all the other GLORY executives, you wouldn't find him. While being introduced by GSI board member Ivan Farneti, it was a pleasant surprise to see Andurand rocking a Roots of Fight "Kid Dynamite," Mike Tyson hoodie.
Any suspicions about him not being a serious fight fan are immediately repelled.
He's taking in the action like any fight fan would and enjoying the narrative of fight week. The story this week, of course, is Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, fighting in his hometown against fellow kickboxing icon Remy Bonjasky.
"It's nice to be in Zagbreb for the first time," Andurand said. "It's a city that has a lot of passion for the sport. Mirko is really a true hero here. Everybody in the city knows about him. So we have two legends competing in a rematch from 2002. Remy Bonjasky won the K-1 Open three times and Mirko, who is a legend from K-1 and Pride times. It's Remy's last fight so he's very excited to fight for the last time and to see how Mirko will do in kickboxing. He fought last year in K-1, but that was not the old K-1. He still has it in kickboxing so it's going to be a great show."
Andurand teased the upcoming Middleweight title tournament, which will feature GLORY 14's "Contender" tournament winner and seven other middleweights that have yet to be announced.
"The ‘Contender' tournament is going to be interesting for Middleweight because all of them ... it's very open tournament, so it's hard to guess who is going to win," Andurand said. "I think we are getting.... We will announce, actually, a few new fighters in the next Middleweight (tournament) in the next few weeks. The final tournament will probably be in June, so we will announce it soon, probably in the next week. It will probably be in the U.S."
Today's event in Zagreb will be the eighth international city the kickboxing promotion has held a fight card in and the fourteenth card overall. Next up will be Istanbul, Turkey, and then back to the United States in Denver, Colorado. Andurand is no stranger to success from his experience as an oil trader, and he is happy with what the promotion's growth so far.
Having a reputation for being bold in the oil market, Andurand shared his views and predictions on what he thinks GLORY can become.
"We see that our ratings on TV on going up nicely," he said. "We are getting more product out, more exposure and selling more tickets. The revenues are coming up, which is good. So it's nice to see the growth and I think we can really make it into ... My goal is for GLORY to be ...
"My vision is that it can really become very big for the combat sports world, because people really like to see stand up fights where people fully commit and you have a lot of knockouts. I think GLORY will have a big space in the combat sports world. We are at an inflection point now."
GLORY, which already has a strong relationship with Spike TV, is looking to test the pay-per-view (PPV) market in the near future. Andurand isn't afraid to take risks and when any promotion heads into uncharted PPV waters, there is always a bit of uncertainty as to how they might do there. GLORY has held successful events and ratings in each of the three Spike TV broadcasts have steadily increased.
The GLORY Chairman explained that you don't know what will happen until you make an attempt and the reason he likes the company's chances to succeed in that facet.
"It's hard to know what to expect until you do it really," Andurand said. "I think generally to be successful in pay-per-view you need to be the category leader in your sport, which we are. So I think we have a good chance of making good numbers and you need to have enough free content on TV to have enough eyeballs and the GLORY fan base in the U.S.
"I have no idea what kind of numbers we do this year, but I'm confident that in the next few years we generate very good numbers. And we have the right team to do it as well. We a have a team of management who have done it at the WWE and UFC before and they know what to do."
Andurand expects there to be around 10,000 fans in Arena Zagreb for GLORY 14. As we know, the promotion is rich in European and Asian talent, and American talent has yet to close the gap. Having more fighters form the United States is something he definitely covets.
"I think it would be nice to have more American fighters and I think it will come naturally in time when we have more exposure on TV," he said. "We are doing the best we can to find them. I am confident.... Like last year you saw guys who came out of nowhere somehow, like Wayne Barrett. First Joe Schilling winning the Middleweight tournament and then Wayne Barrett beating him a few months later.
"So you had two Americans at the very top of the Middleweight category. So that is already a weight division that is encouraging and I'm sure a lot of other American fighters will come and now for stand up fighters there is an alternative to MMA if they want to fight and do it proficiently."
Andurand's excitement when he talks about fighting is impossible to miss. He may be the GLORY Chairman, but he is a fight fan at heart.
"It's very exciting," he said. "Really during the few days before the event and the day of the event. During the event I want to see it as a fan. I want to enjoy it and let the other guys work, obviously," he laughed.
He doesn't get too stressed during an event, either, he admitted. "Not too much," he said. "It usually goes well. There is always a few little things going on here and there. We can always improve, but it's getting better every time."